Bemidji State men's hockey team faces St. Cloud State in first road trip of the year
After two straight home series, the Bemidji State men's hockey team is looking forward to the first road series of the year this weekend at No. 20 St. Cloud State.
"We need a road trip," Bemidji State men's hockey coach Tom Serratore said. "We've been home for a month and it's time to get on the road. Ideally you like to have your first or second weekend on the road. It's been kind of a crazy schedule so far for the Beavers, but it's a good time for a road trip."
Game times are 7:07 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the National Hockey Center on the campus of St. Cloud State. Bemidji State is seeking its first win of the season (0-3-1 overall, 0-3-1 WCHA) and St. Cloud State (3-4-1 overall, 1-1 WCHA) is looking to win back-to-back games for the first time this season. SCSU split the last two weekends with Minnesota and Quinnipiac.
"I know they're frustrated with their start right now," Serratore said. "They wish they could get more consistency out of their team, but they're a team that's extremely dangerous."
The Beavers face a nationally ranked opponent for the third straight series in St. Cloud State. After a season-opening sweep to then No. 2 North Dakota, the Beavers lost and tied in overtime games last weekend against current No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth.
The Beavers enter the series led by the top line of Ian Lowe, Jordan George and Matt Read. The trio has 10 points and five of the seven goals for the team this season.
George leads BSU with three goals and attributed the first line's success so far to simplicity.
"Keeping it simple, getting pucks deep, playing Beaver hockey and going to work," George said. "Once we can have them down there for 20-30 seconds we can make some plays."
The Beavers are searching for scoring beyond the first line. Emil Billberg and Jamie MacQueen are the only Beavers outside the first line to score.
Drew LeBlanc leads the Huskies with eight assists and nine points on the season. Nick Jenson ranks second with seven points and Jared Festler leads the team in goals with three. All but four players on the Huskies roster have recorded a point this season.
"First of all, they're experienced," Serratore said of the Huskies. "They have nine seniors, they're very good transitionally, they've got high-end skill and they've got one of the better goalies in the country in Mike Lee ... again it's the WCHA: there's not a lot of flaws, there's not a lot of holes."
One area to watch this weekend for BSU is special teams.
Bemidji State's penalty killing unit has played well in some situations, but has lacked consistency in the first four games. The Beavers 69 percent kill rate enters the weekend ranked last in the WCHA.
"That's one area of our game right now that's been a work in progress," Serratore said. "We knew that going in. When you lose (Chris) McKelvie and (Tyler) Lehrke we knew there would be issues. We have to make sure we try rectify that little problem as quick as we can."
Adding to the challenge this weekend will be the Olympic ice sheet.
"It's going to be hard to play on their Olympic size ice I think, but we're practicing it this week so I think we'll be ready," Bemidji State defenseman Jake Areshenko said.
BSU played on Olympic ice in two series last year against Northern Michigan and Minnesota. BSU went 2-1-1 in those games.
"It's always concerning to me when we go on an Olympic ice sheet," Serratore said. "As much as we played decent on Olympic ice over the last couple of years, it's something that's in the back of my mind and you're a little concerned with. We're a very aggressive team, we pressure the puck very hard and sometimes on Olympic ice you can take yourselves out of the play. So there's a happy medium. The last thing you want to do is deviate from the way you play, but we have to make sure that we realize where we are at on the rink."
The first win has been elusive so far this season, but Serratore is satisfied with the team's effort in the first month of the first season in the WCHA.
"We have a bunch of world-class kids who work extremely hard," Serratore said. "They're very dedicated, very passionate hockey players and I think we're getting better. The last three games I've been very impressed with how our guys have adapted. The first game was a tough game for a lot of different reasons. Game 2 we gave ourselves a chance to win, we just got beat by a better hockey team. And this past weekend I thought we played very, very well. I'd like to see us score a little more goals but I think scoring goals is going to be very difficult for us all year... I thought we did pretty good when you factor we didn't give up a five-on-five goal all weekend."